BAO chief executive Michael Allchin has had a historic week.

By Michael Allchin

Last week I witnessed history being made.


Tuesday and Wednesday saw a lively meeting of the 19 Hallmarking Convention countries and the International Association of Assay Offices (IAAO) in Geneva. The atmosphere at the Convention was unusually highly charged with an international stand-off happening before our eyes; Italy has applied to join the Convention after 30 years of hostility, only to find their path blocked by the Czech Republic.

No one seems to be sure why. The other 18 members, including the UK, want Italy in. We are now awaiting a reasoned written response from the Czech government outlining their objections so that these can be reviewed.

Meanwhile the Swiss reported a big increase in their use of Convention Hallmarks, up by over 50% on two years ago. These numbers are being driven by exports of Swiss precious metal watches to China, India and Russia especially, and the desire of the watch brands to have a single legally recognised international hallmark throughout Europe.

Talking of Russians, they are showing increasing interest in the Convention and activities of the IAAO. Hallmarking is definitely on the international agenda as the market continues to change.

The IAAO has a very important role in organising an annual series of round robins, where an unknown sample of precious metal alloy in the form of wire is sent to all participating Assay Offices for analysis. Their results are compared and reported.

It’s the best way to maintain analytical consistency and standards across the world, and it is a great pity that the international diamond testing community doesn’t adopt a similarly rigorous programme and process.

Our AnchorCert diamond grading lab at The Birmingham Assay Office is one of only three worldwide which has proved its grading competence and is accredited to ISO 17025. For precious metal analysis by assay offices this is the international norm, not the rare exception.

On Thursday I was privileged to make the keynote speech to the great and the good of the jewellery industry attending the House of Commons to celebrate the BJA’s 125th Birthday, exactly to the day.

Tom Green was there; his great grandfather Charles had been the first BJA chairman in 1887. There were many past and present BJA chairmen, directors and executives at the event, and we owe all of them our gratitude for the leadership and hard work they have given unselfishly over the years.

The BJA gave us tea overlooking the Thames. It was lovely. And then champagne. And then a sneak preview of the fabulous diamond brooch that has been created for the Queen to mark her Diamond Jubilee.

The brooch is a masterpiece of teamwork so typical of the tradition of our trade, and incorporates state of the art technology with good old fashioned bench skills. You will read about the detail of the brooch, its manufacture, its symbolism and the very talented people who created it elsewhere.

We should all be proud of it. It is a credit to our industry and should give us all confidence that the BJA and its members will have another successful 125 years ahead.

Birmingham Assay Office chief executive Michael Allchin is a regular guest columnist for Professional Jeweller. If you work in the jewellery industry and are interested in writing a guest column then email the editor at with your idea.